The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently issued information on protection against disability discrimination in the form of four revised documents. The federal agency issued these guides, which are included in the EEOC’s “Disability Discrimination, The Question and Answer Series,” consistent with the EEOC’s Strategic Plan, which aims to provide timely guidance on antidiscrimination laws.
The expanded coverage of the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) has raised more questions in the workplace and these updated documents will provide employees additional guidance with regard to cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, and intellectual disabilities. The documents provide specific examples of permissible and impermissible inquiries, which are issues on which supervisors frequently need or should be given guidance. The revised guides also address issues such as under what circumstances employers may make medical inquiries and which types of reasonable accommodations employers should offer disabled employees. The documents also address issues such as confidential medical information and offer a good analysis of concerns about safety and reminders about harassment and retaliation.
While the information is not expansive, it is easily understood and offers enough information to provide additional guidance to employers. The EEOC provides this information with regard to both applicants and current employees and spells out for the employer appropriate actions under the specific circumstances.
The documents each offer a discussion of the particular condition and why it is likely to be considered a disability. The discussion of intellectual disabilities is particularly helpful because it defines an intellectual disability as being “characterized by significant limitation both in intellectual functioning and in adaptive behavior that may affect many everyday social and practical skills.” (Emphasis added.) This characterization by the EEOC may provide added detail that employers will find helpful.
From a practical standpoint these documents can provide employers and human resources professionals an excellent resource when issues arise on these specific conditions—which have each presented more issues since the implementation of the ADAAA.
Kathy Dudley Helms is a shareholder in the Columbia office of Ogletree Deakins.